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Hull Zero Three Hardcover – November 22, 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 144 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Multiple Hugo and Nebula winner Bear (City at the End of Time) sets this difficult but rewarding short novel on an interstellar colony ship gone astray. Teacher was supposed to be awakened just before landfall. What he finds when he gains some semblance of consciousness, however, is a dangerous and chaotic environment, with monsters roaming the ship's corridors and no one in charge. As he and a small band of equally ignorant crew members attempt to reach the gigantic ship's control center, they travel through a series of labyrinthine spaces, uncovering a variety of clues to the disaster that has destroyed large parts of the starship and damaged the controlling AIs. Not for those who prefer their space opera simpleminded, this beautifully written tale where nothing is as it seems will please readers with a well-developed sense of wonder. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

Never one to play it safe in his consistently inventive fiction, Bear takes the reader for a harrowing ride on a labyrinthine starship in his latest hard-SF-oriented novel. Bear’s protagonist is an amnesiac starship crew member just released from a deep hibernation state called Dreamtime. Naked, disoriented, and forced by extreme temperature and gravity fluctuations to find safety somewhere among a confusing network of passageways, the man eventually receives help from an odd assortment of fellow Dreamtime refugees. Taking stock of their surroundings, while avoiding onboard killing machines, the gang quickly realizes the starship has given them each a unique role to play, including discovering collectively why the ship has been seriously damaged and cast aside from its mission to seek out habitable worlds. Bear’s pithy, occasionally cryptic writing style perfectly captures the chaotic experiences and unsettling revelations the team endures, while putting an intriguing spin on the timeworn SF theme of interstellar planet hunting. One of Bear’s most thought-provoking and well-crafted novels to date. --Carl Hays

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Book Club Edition edition (November 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316072818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316072816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

Greg Bear is the author of more than thirty books, spanning thrillers, science fiction, and fantasy, including Blood Music, Eon, The Forge of God, Darwin's Radio, City at the End of Time, and Hull Zero Three. His books have won numerous international prizes, have been translated into more than twenty-two languages, and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Over the last twenty-eight years, he has also served as a consultant for NASA, the U.S. Army, the State Department, the International Food Protection Association, and Homeland Security on matters ranging from privatizing space to food safety, the frontiers of microbiology and genetics, and biological security.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was predisposed to liking this novel. I am a fan of the sci-fi tropes of the "big dumb object exploration" (see: "Rama" series) as well as the who multi-century interstellar exploration idea (too many to mention). "Hull Zero Three" is a combination of these themes, and starts out very fast, with a man awakened from a dreaming bliss and rudely injected into a freezing, semi-derelict giant starship, beset by confusion and danger at every turn, and basically trying to survive first, and figure out what is going on and what he is doing later.

The overall theme of "Hull Zero Three" may remind readers last year's (very underrated) film "Pandorum," but Bear, to his credit, writes with a bit more complexity and depth then what you might find in a movie. The themes of "Hull Zero Three" include some meditation on what it means to be human - genetically and morally, and whether we can overcome our genetic 'programming', as well as what humanity as a species may or may not be willing to do in order to survive.

Bear doesn't skimp on pure action, and while he avoids the standard "infodump" we do learn enough of the design and function of the inconceivably vast starship to really engage the reader's sense of wonder and awe. The book was not perfect - there were some scenes towards the middle where it dragged a bit, and the end seemed a bit too rushed and confusing. However, these are minor flaws. Overall, "Hull Zero Three" is one of 2010's better sci-fi offerings and showcases an author that is still near the top of his game.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hull Zero Three is an uneven, uneasy marriage of the "amnesiac protagonist" plot (made popular mostly in mystery and suspense fiction, such as "The Bourne Identity") and the "explore the big dumb object" plot (made popular in science fiction, such as "Rendezvous with Rama," "Event Horizon," etc.). Unfortunately, the combination of these plots makes for a muddled read, since a character who doesn't know who or where he is wanders through something he can't adequately describe (because he's also forgotten a lot of words, so he really wouldn't be able to adequately describe his surroundings if he woke up somewhere really mundane) being threatened (or not...he's not really sure) by things he doesn't know the names of and again can't adequately describe.

It is pretty obvious from the outset that the character is on a generation ship and that things have gone HORRIBLY WRONG (as things always seem to do on generation ships...it's a wonder anyone builds them, really...don't those people read science fiction?). So the suspense really all revolves around what has gone wrong and will the characters be able to set it right. It's too bad that Bear chose such an annoying way to tell this story, because I thought the situation (when it is finally revealed very late in the novel) was actually pretty interesting and if he'd made the story about THAT instead of about an amnesiac character slowly making this discovery, it would have been a much better novel.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book. After all, the basic plot (character awakes in strange circumstances on a vast starship, and must undertake a long journey with many challenges in order to discover why) is a classic. I doubt that I'm the only reader of space fiction who has dreamed about such a quest, and even thought about writing it.... But I digress. Just because a story is based on a timeless theme doesn't mean it's no good, does it?

So the narrative arc is familiar, the characters equally so, the vaguely horrific quest works well, and the overall resolution is nicely judged. So why Do I give this book only three stars? Other reviewers have already identified the book's fatal weakness: the descriptions. Descriptions of characters and of monsters, both human and monstrous. Descriptions of the ship: its processes, systems, structures, spaces and spatial elements. Descriptions of the forces that act upon the characters, including sounds, accelerations, temperatures... The author insists on painting a detailed picture of every move, every event, every spin-up and chill-down, and then finds himself running out of adjectives. The result is often repetitive, and unfortunately flat.

As I said, I've read many science fiction stories in which the writers strove to describe huge alien forms and to hint at experiences beyond human ken. And generally they succeeded. I have a feeling that what's happening here is that the author has watched too many science fiction moves. When computer graphics can casually fill the screen with aliens, or a starship the size of a small planet, or an attack by thousands of robots, two things can happen to a writer. First, s/he may believe that anything less will not satisfy the reader, and s/he will strive to compete with the visual medium.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Hull Zero Three" takes place aboard an interstellar colony ship, traveling for hundreds of years at 20% of lightspeed. It is not, strictly speaking, a generation ship, since it is designed to have only a few crew during flight. The actual colonists will not be revived until arrival.

Something goes wrong during flight. The main character is one of the colonists who finds himself awake too soon, with the ship failing around him. The majority of the book is one of "man versus the environment," where the environment is the damaged and malfunctioning ship. The main character's memory is damaged, so central to this struggle is his attempt to understand the ship. And this is where it all falls apart.

The problem is that the unnamed Ship makes no sense at all. It might as well be designed by aliens. Insane aliens. At root, "Hull Zero Three" is a horror story, and the Ship is the haunted house, with features that exist just to scare and confuse the main character. The author has made precious little effort to make concessions to what would actually be useful and functional for a colony ship, or how it would really be laid out if the designers were trying to make it useful and convenient for its eventual crew. Imagine if the designers of the "hammer room" from Galaxy Quest built an entire ship that way.

It doesn't help that the dialog is often elliptical, disjointed and deliberately difficult to understand, and that the story is told in an annoying stream-of-consciousness manner. At one point a character says "You are prayed into existence." I kid you not, that's the kind of mushy-headed dialog that's common in this book. The resolution of the book is frankly semi-mystical.

Eventually, we do find out what's going on, and it's a mixed bag.
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